The Japan Times (Continuación)

Whether East Asia’s politicians and pundits like it or not, the region’s current international relations are more akin to 19th-century European balance-of-power politics than to the stable Europe of today.

Witness East Asia’s rising nationalism, territorial disputes, and lack of effective institutional mechanisms for security cooperation. While economic interdependence among China, Japan, South Korea and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations continues to deepen, their diplomatic relations are as burdened by rivalry and mistrust as relations among European countries were in the decades prior to World War I.

One common characteristic, then and now, is a power shift.…  Seguir leyendo »

When China ratified the United Nations law of the sea treaty in 1996, it was hailed as an important step toward stability and peaceful settlement of disputes in East Asia’s vast, valuable but conflict-riven offshore zone.

So the recent move by the Philippines to turn to the U.N. for a ruling on whether China’s sweeping claims to ownership and control over nearly all of the South China Sea in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia is in line with the 1982 treaty seemed like a perfectly law-abiding step.

But China’s Xinhua news agency said the Philippines’ referring the issue to a U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since mid-December, Pakistan has experienced political and economic volatility that is extraordinary even by Pakistani standards. The fragile political structure that began to be erected following the resumption of civilian government in 2008 is now shaking.

A key source of this unrest is Tahirul Qadri, a Toronto-based Muslim cleric who arrived in Lahore in early December. Ten days later, he addressed a mammoth public meeting at the city's Minar-e-Pakistan grounds, where, a year earlier, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had launched what he not very appropriately termed a political tsunami.

Qadri issued a 20-day ultimatum to the government in Islamabad to purge the political system of rampant corruption, reconstitute the Election Commission, and appoint a caretaker administration to oversee the upcoming vote.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea's new supreme leader Kim Jong Un conducted two missile tests last year. The first, in April, failed. The second, in December, was by all accounts a huge success. But it was not just a test of North Korea's ability to put an object into space. Kim's second test was also the first test of the new Chinese leadership.

To date, it would appear that Chairman Xi Jingping has passed Kim's test with flying colors ... at least in North Korea's eyes. The rest of us are not too sure.

Some, myself included, have argued that we should not have been so quick to judge Kim and his policies by the April 2012 rocket launch or the Feb.…  Seguir leyendo »

Moscow, they say, "wasn't built at one go" — in contrast to St. Petersburg, which emerged laid out, as if by magic, in strict conformity to Peter the Great's plan — and it has been growing chaotically for more than 800 years on seven gently sloping hills surrounding the river of the same name.

Today, Moscow is an agglomeration of about 12 million people, with more than 1 million visitors coming and leaving each day. Modern suburbs are marching ever farther from the 110-km-long road ringing the original city, while a recently adopted new expansion plan for the capital is aimed at doubling the city's size, thus making it possible to move official institutions away from the historic city center.…  Seguir leyendo »

The most frustrating part of covering the Lebanese civil war (1975-90) was that there was nothing left to say after a while.

Syria is starting to feel just the same. It's horrible, but atrocities are a daily event in all civil wars. It's not going to stop anytime soon, but you can only say that so many times before people get bored and move on. Except for the people who actually live near Syria's borders, the audience for "news" about Syria has already moved on.

Consider, for example, the recent exhaustive study by the United Nations Human Rights Commission concluding that 60,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war since March, 2011.…  Seguir leyendo »

When China destroyed one of its own satellites in space six years ago, it alarmed many other Asia-Pacific countries that have invested heavily in orbiting satellites for telecommunications, Earth observation and scientific research.

China's action caused particular concern in the United States, Japan, Australia, India and other nations that use satellites for defense purposes that can include voice and data communications, surveillance, precise navigation and guidance of bombs and missiles.

In 2008, just over a year after the Chinese test, the U.S. fired a modified ballistic missile defense rocket from a warship to shoot down a malfunctioning American spy satellite about 250 km above the Pacific Ocean.…  Seguir leyendo »

Too many years ago, this young reporter was about to move from one of Britain's biggest newspaper groups to a paper with a daily sale of fewer than 200,000 copies. A hard-bitten veteran, who had spent years reporting for the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph pleaded with me over farewell drinks not to go to the Financial Times.

"Don't commit journalistic suicide," he said. "This is your wake before you are dead. This is your funeral as a journalist. The Financial Times is not a newspaper: It is a trade magazine for the City."

How wrong he was. The Financial Times today is one of the top five daily newspapers in the world, the very best in my view.…  Seguir leyendo »

The shock waves from the pack-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi continue to reverberate in India and around the world. The pathology of rape is not rooted in local culture. A nation does not rise in collective revulsion at normal but rather at unacceptable behavior.

The explanation for the rape epidemic lies in accumulating failures of governance. Successive governments have responded to crises with patchwork solutions, postponing structural reforms to tomorrow. That tomorrow has arrived with a vengeance and the government is at a loss on what to do.

There are four reasons for the extraordinary outpouring of anger: This attack was particularly horrific and savage.…  Seguir leyendo »

A new year needs a new word that reflects the special trends and tendencies, the hopes and dreams and challenges ahead. Sadly, a strong candidate for the word of the New Year 2013 has to be "omnishambles," meaning a mess everywhere. Wherever you look, economies are under unprecedented pressure, governments are suffering from budget deficits, unemployment rates are high and hurting millions of families, world trade is slumping and the very systems that underpinned recent rapid global growth seem to be breaking down.

Even globalization is facing important challenges. It is all about creating a single seamless world where national boundaries diminish in significance in the interests of economic freedom and greater opportunities for all.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pope Benedict XVI had a busy holiday season, as you might expect, since it is a sacred time for Catholics and other Christians. He set himself the difficult-to- impossible task of trying to put Christ back into Christmas.

In his Christmas homily the pope pleaded with Christians to make space for God in their lives: If practicing Christians have no room for God, He does not have much future among humanity.

For the rest of the world, the question might be: Is it time to abolish Christmas? Christmas has come and Christmas has gone, but did anybody notice?

Of course, we noticed the endless Muzak playing in shopping malls worldwide, talk of angels singing on high, mummy kissing Santa Claus, flying reindeer and other unlikely UFOs.…  Seguir leyendo »